The State of Freedom in this changing World
TFreedom House in its annual report on political rights and civil liberties titled ‘Freedom in the World’ noted the 13th year of consecutive decline of freedom around the world. The report notes that this rollback of democracy, following large-scale expansion from the 1970s onwards, was “consistent and ominous”. This decline is widespread. All region of the world (except for the Asia Pacific) show a lower average score than in 2005. This rollback occurred in both authoritarian states, as well as, democracies. For the report 195 countries and 14 territories are evaluated across 25 different indicators. This decline in overall freedom is experienced in the reduction of quantity and quality of free and fair elections, attempts to eliminate executive term limits, freedom of expression, refuge rights, and a rise in digital authoritarianism (internet censorship).
Among the countries which have done better this year are Malaysia, Armenia, Ethiopia, Angola, and Ecuador. Among the countries which have showed a decline are countries which became democracies after the end of the Cold War, as well as established democracies such as the US. The countries termed “not free” and appear at the end of the list include Syria, South Sudan, Eritrea, Turkmenistan and North Korea. However, the rankings should be questioned when balanced out against other indices most notable would be categorizing Brazil and India as “free”.
As Freedom House receives a substantial amount of funding from the United States government, it is particularly interesting, that the report dedicated so much of the report to documenting the reduction of freedom within the US. The US has fallen from 94/100 points in the 2009 report to 86/100 this year. In the current report, the US places well behind other comparable democracies such as Japan, Canada, the UK and Germany. It comments on the current administration saying, “there remains little question that President Trump exerts an influence on American politics that is straining our core values and testing the stability of our constitutional system.” The report says that this process did not start with the Trump administration but has been simmering through partisanship, spread of fake news, as well as crack down on the press and increased surveillance.
This report is another piece of bad news about the situation in the US. Last month, another watch dog Transparency International, in its Corruption Perception Index (CPI), linked the increase in corruption to weakening of democratic attitudes and structures. The CPI notes that this is the first time that the US has been knocked out of the top 20 “cleanest” countries.
The Freedom House Index is not alone. Another well-known report produced by V-Dem (varieties of democracy) also expresses concern about the global situation stating that “Autocratization is now manifesting in a number of large countries including Brazil, India, Russia, Turkey, and the United States. It affects one third of the world’s population – some 2.5 billion people.”
Image Credit: CC by Freedom/ Flickr